It is one thing to quarantine unvaccinated travelers or undergo additional Covid tests.
It is another matter to ban them altogether.
A small but growing list of travel destinations either closes its doors to unvaccinated travelers or opens only to vaccinated ones. However, travel options for the unvaccinated are dwindling as tourism-dependent nations prioritize security and simplified entry requirements over open-door policies.
Unvaccinated people are no longer welcome
When Anguilla reopened last November, travelers to the small Caribbean island had to test negative for Covid-19 before and after arriving. Then, in April, there was a flood of new cases and Anguilla closed its borders to tourists for a month.
As of next week, unvaccinated travelers will no longer be allowed to enter Anguilla.
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Now the British overseas territory is changing its tactics. From July 1st, visitors must be vaccinated at least three weeks prior to arrival. This applies to “all visitors who are eligible for a vaccination,” according to the Anguilla Tourist Board website, which exempts children from vaccination requirements.
Vaccinated travelers no longer have to be quarantined, do not have to take a Covid test or pay entrance fees on arrival. Earlier this year, vaccinated travelers were charged $ 300 to enter, while unvaccinated visitors were charged $ 600.
Cases rise, tolerance falls
Anguilla isn’t the only Caribbean island locking its doors to unvaccinated travelers. The twin-island state of St. Kitts and Nevis implemented a similar policy last month.
As of May 29, St. Kitts will only accept travelers vaccinated with US or European vaccines. The new rule was part of several initiatives announced by Prime Minister Timothy Harris last month in response to a cluster of 16 Covid cases in the islands, according to the St. Kitts Tourism Authority.
A buildup of 16 new Covid cases in May resulted in St. Kitts and Nevis closing their borders to unvaccinated travelers.
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“The previously announced travel regulations for unvaccinated travelers are null and void,” said a statement announcing the policy change.
The islands have a daily curfew at 6:00 p.m. and tourist attractions are closed until June 26th. A timeframe for reopening to unvaccinated tourists has not yet been given.
Unvaccinated children traveling with vaccinated parents can also enter, but they have to “go on vacation” for 14 days rather than the nine days required for vaccinated tourists.
Anguilla and St. Kitts and Nevis are rated as Low Covid Level 1 travel destinations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both were highlighted by CNBC in March as one of just a handful of tourist destinations to open while maintaining low rates of Covid infection.
A “compelling reason” to travel
Elsewhere, unvaccinated visitors have to prove for other reasons that they don’t just need vacation.
When French Polynesia, which includes the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora, reopened on May 1, Americans were selected as the only nationality allowed to enter for tourist purposes. The policy also applied to unvaccinated Americans, although the unvaccinated were quarantined.
In the meantime, that has changed. From June 16, vaccinated tourists will be able to enter if they have spent the last 15 days in the UK, most of French territories or in France’s “green zone” countries, according to the French Polynesia Destination Marketing Organization. The “Green Zone” countries currently encompass most of Europe as well as countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States.
France’s “green” list of countries
Most of Europe plus Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States
Source: French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, updated June 17th
All others – including all unvaccinated travelers – must demonstrate a “compelling reason” relating to health, family or work to travel to French Polynesia.
“Tourism is not a compulsory reason to travel,” says Tahiti’s tourism website.
France’s politics are a little more relaxed. It enables unvaccinated travelers from “green” countries to enter the country via a negative Covid test. However, travelers from “orange” countries – that is, all countries that are not on the green or red list, ie most of the world – must be vaccinated in order to enter or show “urgent reasons” for the trip, according to the website of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
The French collectives St. Barts and St. Martin in the Caribbean reopened this month with a similar policy. Nils DuFau, president of the St. Barts Tourist Board, separately announced that St. Barts will be open to vaccinated Americans from June 9th.
St. Barts reopened its borders to vaccinated American travelers on June 9th.
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Spain went one step further. From June 7th, Spain will welcome travelers from Europe and from a list of 10 countries with low Covid rates. all other tourists must present a vaccination certificate to enter the country.
Note: The country lists from France and Spain are similar. However, the UK is currently on Spain’s list, but the US and Canada are not.
Tourism-dependent countries like those in the Caribbean need to balance the economic impact of taking in tourists with the safety of their citizens, said Tim Hentschel, co-founder and CEO of hotel reservation company HotelPlanner.
“I can only imagine how challenging these conversations must be between a country’s infectious disease expert advising stricter policies and a tourism chief who argues to let everyone in immediately so the economy doesn’t stall,” he said.
Hentschel said that while 13 Caribbean states are sovereign, French territories like Martinique and Guadeloupe and Dutch territories like Curacao, Aruba and Sint Maarten may follow state policies.
Hentschel called Asia “a completely different story”, mainly because of the lower vaccination rates.
Vaccinated travelers from some countries do not need to be quarantined in Phuket, Thailand as of July 1.
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“As soon as there seems to be progress, there will be a new outbreak and lockdown, like in Singapore,” he said. “Asia’s journey back to what appears to be normal pre-pandemic travel will take much longer – maybe a year or more, alas.”
Asian destinations no longer require vaccinations for travel, but the continent is still largely closed to leisure travelers. The much-discussed “Phuket Sandbox” model – which aims to reopen the popular island of Phuket on July 1 before the rest of Thailand – waives quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers from low to medium risk countries.
Unvaccinated travelers can still enter despite being subject to a 14-day isolation period, the Thai tourism authority CNBC confirmed.
The vaccination requirement for tourists is “completely sensible” in some places, but not everywhere, said Hentschel.
“Interestingly, Mexico never closed its border to American tourists during the entire pandemic,” he said. “So this is an example where a more open policy to Mexico made sense given its proximity to the US, billions of billions in cross-border shipping and trade every day, and reliance on US tourism dollars.”
Editor’s note: The U.S. land borders with Mexico were closed to non-essential travel in March 2020 and will remain restricted until at least July 21. However, air traffic between the two countries was opened throughout the pandemic.